CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Three openly gay candidates vying for office across North Carolina lost in their respective primaries on Tuesday, and with those losses — for the first time in a decade — no openly LGBT person will be counted among the state legislature’s 170 members come January.
In Mecklenburg County, openly gay candidate Ty Turner lost his Democratic primary for state Senate District 40. Facing a crowded primary with four other candidates, Turner came in last and carried just 6 percent of the vote with 36 of 48 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results published online by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
In Wake County, openly gay candidate Derek Kiszely garnered only 23 percent of the vote in his Democratic primary for state House District 49, with nearly all precincts reporting.
Turner’s loss means the state’s estimated 244,000 LGBT citizens won’t have any openly LGBT representation in the North Carolina General Assembly. Even if Kiszley had won his Wake County primary, that district leans Republican with a potential Kiszely general election victory nearly impossible. But, with no November opponent, a Turner primary victory would have guaranteed his seat in the state Senate.
A third option to guarantee LGBT representation had recently come into the hands of local Democratic Party leaders in Mecklenburg County. Last Saturday, 49 members of the county party’s executive committee met to fill a vacant state Senate seat left open when former Sen. Dan Clodfelter stepped down to become Charlotte’s mayor.
Twenty-five of those voters chose Gaston County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jackson, with openly gay businessman Billy Maddalon receiving 21 votes.
Jen Jones, communications director for statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, called the election results “bittersweet.” The group is particularly concerned the state will be left without an openly LGBT voice in the legislature.
“While we are heartened by important wins by many of our pro-equality primary picks, look forward to working with our many straight allies at the state legislative level, and will fight for many of these same and similar allies in the 2014 general election,” Jones said in a statement.
Turner, too, was disappointed in the results for the LGBT community. He called the lack of representation “sad.”
“Now it’s up to us to mobilize over the next couple years,” Turner said. “It takes losses like these for us to step up and stand behind new candidates who want to serve. It is hard to be LGBT and want to actually serve and out yourself in the South and have the courage to go up to some of these groups and talk.”
The state’s only openly gay member currently, House Rep. Marcus Brandon, did not seek reelection, and was among several candidates in the 12th Congressional District primary. Additionally, he was vying in a special election to fulfill former Rep. Mel Watt’s unexpired term for the remainder of this year.
With a majority of precincts reporting, Brandon carried just eight percent of the special election vote and seven percent of the main primary.
In the 2nd Congressional District primary, the race between former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco remained very close and without a clear winner. Aiken currently leads by 372 votes.